Cognitive impairment is acknowledged as a feature of Parkinson's disease (PD), and the most common cognitive declines are in executive function (EF) and memory. Cognitive reserve (CR) may offer some protection against cognitive dysfunction in PD. The present study used two proxies of CR (years of education, premorbid IQ) to examine the relationship between CR and (i) EF (ii) memory in a large PD sample (n = 334). Two aspects of EF were examined, including verbal fluency and planning skills. Two aspects of verbal memory were examined, including immediate recall and delayed recall. For EF, both CR proxies significantly predicted verbal fluency, but only years of education predicted planning skills. Years of education significantly predicted immediate recall, but premorbid IQ did not. Neither CR proxy predicted delayed recall. These findings suggest that CR, in particular years of education, may contribute to EF and memory function in those with PD. A key finding of this study is the varying contribution of CR proxies to different aspects of the same cognitive domain. The findings indicate that using only one proxy has the potential to be misleading and suggest that when testing the relationship between CR and cognition, studies should include tasks that measure different aspects of the cognitive domain(s) of interest.
Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; cognition; cognitive reserve; executive function; memory.